September 30, 2015 — Today, Governor Brown signed into law SB 504, “Starting Over Strong”, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara. This new law removes California’s fee for juvenile record-sealing, so that youth who turn 18 no longer need to pay to file court petitions to seal records of juvenile adjudications.
“We seek to restore the civil rights of all formerly incarcerated people, and making record-sealing free will help young Californians get jobs so they can support their families,” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), a co-sponsor of SB 504.
Every year, thousands of California youth are arrested. When they turn 18 and apply for jobs, many are denied employment for past mistakes. People with minor (non-serious) records are eligible to have them sealed, but most counties have charged fees (up to $150) for this service, which was cost-prohibitive to young people who lack jobs but want to Start Over Strong. This change will save millions of dollars as young people become able to seal their records, stay employed, and stay out of jail. Every person who gets a job generates payroll taxes for the state budget, and also saves the state the extremely expensive cost of incarceration. The fee itself generated less than half a million dollars in state revenue annually.
This new law improves economic outcomes for California’s youth and, in so doing, protects public safety by eliminating an unnecessary barrier to reentry for youth who are eligible for and seeking the juvenile record sealing remedy. Juvenile records can create barriers to employment and housing. An unsealed juvenile record can appear on a background checks, and lead to an unfairly adverse employment or housing decision. Without stable employment and housing, there is a higher chance that young people will recidivate and become involved in the adult criminal justice system.
LSPC organizes communities impacted by the criminal justice system and advocates to release incarcerated people, to restore human and civil rights and to reunify families and communities. LSPC builds public awareness of structural racism in policing, the courts, and prison system, and advances racial and gender justice. LSPC’s strategies include legal support, trainings, advocacy, public education, grassroots mobilization, and developing community partnerships.
Please read Senator Ricardo Lara’s statement on this historic victory.